10 of the best winter exhibitions in Chicago


Chicago is home to several cultural venues that host a diverse programme of exhibitions throughout the year that span a wide number of themes and genres. The Windy City attracts some of America’s finest artists for whom Chicago provides plenty of inspiration for their creative output.

For visitors to Chicago during the winter months, the biting cold makes indoor attractions something of a necessity. If you’re here at this time of year and would like to visit an exhibition or two during your stay, we’ve picked out 10 of the best winter exhibitions that Chicago has to offer at the tail end of this year and the start of next. 

Andy Warhol – From A to B and Back Again 

(Photo: Art Institute of Chicago)

One of the contemporary art world’s biggest icons is celebrated at this major retrospective at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago. Building on new research into the late American Pop Artist’s long and illustrious career, the exhibition features more than 400 works, including paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, videos, installation, and films. As for the exhibition’s name, it alludes to Warhol’s tendency to describe his personal philosophy as spanning from A to B.

LOCATION Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan Ave DATES Through 26 January 2020

Brewing Up Chicago: How Beer Transformed a City

(Photo: Field Museum)

Beer and Chicago go together peanut butter and jelly, and it’s a relationship that spans virtually the city’s entire history. This exhibition charts that enduring love affair, transporting you back to the mid-19th century when a growing German immigrant community introduced lager here. Since that time, brewing practices and techniques have emerged and evolved in Chicago that have stood the test of time. The exhibition features a diverse collection of historical objects, photographs, and personal stories that shine a light on how beer helped make Chicago the city it is today.

LOCATION Field Museum, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive DATES Through 5 January 2020

Setting the Stage: Objects of Chicago Theatre

(Photo: Design Museum of Chicago)

Chicago’s theatre scene is renowned across the world and this exhibition pays tribute to this illustrious performing arts heritage by showcasing the full spectrum of theatrical design. Visitors will learn about the creative processes that lay behind theatre productions through poster displays, costumes, props and other set design paraphernalia. As part of the celebration of the Year of Chicago Theatre in 2019, a stage in the centre of the gallery space will play host to performances and workshops from a rotating guest company.

LOCATION Design Museum of Chicago, 72 East Randolph Street DATES Through 5 January 2020

Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Light 

(Photo: JB Spector/Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago)

One of Chicago’s annual exhibitions is this festive-themed extravaganza that celebrates international customs and traditions across more than 50 countries and cultures through a range of eye-catching and informative displays. Dozens of stunningly decorated Christmas trees, hand-crafted ornaments, and other exhibits line the museum’s Main Floor, while every half-an-hour artificial snow falls gently on visitors from above. Don’t forgot to bring a camera for a chance to have your photo taken alongside the 45-foot, floor-to-ceiling Grand tree, featuring more than 45,000 lights.

LOCATION Museum of Science & Industry, 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, DATES Through 5 January 2020

Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection

(Photo: The Block Museum of Art)

The distinctly rich artistic heritages of Iran, Turkey and India are celebrated at this thought-provoking exhibition featuring some 114 modernist works, all exploring local traditions, cultural exchanges and the sights and sounds of modern life. Organised by New York University’s Grey Art Gallery and now on display at Chicago’s Block Museum of Art, the exhibition’s works are all centred around the wellspring of art that emerged out of the modernist revolution of the mid-20th century – a time when these countries underwent significant political, social and cultural change.

LOCATION Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University DATES 21 January-5 April 2020)

Sandra Jorgensen

(Photo: Elmhurst Art Museum)

One of Chicago’s most cherished cultural institutions, Elmhurst Art Museum is playing host to a fascinating and broad survey exhibition this winter, showcasing works by the late painter, curator, and Professor Sandra Jorgensen. As well as a number of her exceptional paintings, the exhibition also features never-before-seen photo surveying Jorgensen’s accomplishments with Chicago Imagists in their homes and studios, all designed to celebrate the crucial role she played in shaping Chicago’s rich artistic heritage.

LOCATION Elmhurst Art Museum DATES 25 January–12 April 2020

3rd Midwest Open 

(Photo: Woman Made Gallery)

The annual Midwest Open returns to the Woman Made Gallery this winter, featuring a diverse range of exhibiting artists whose works span everything from figurative paintings and conceptual photography to abstract sculptures and multimedia art. Juried this year by Mia Lopez, Assistant Curator at Chicago’s DePaul Art Museum, the exhibition will once again focus on female-identified artists, all unified via thoughtful consideration of form and content.

LOCATION Woman Made Gallery, 2150 South Canalport Avenue DATES 17 January-8 February 2020

2019 Lillstreet Holiday Show

(Photo: Lillstreet Art Center)

Some of the top-selling artists from around the country showcase their creative wares at this popular annual holiday exhibition that runs until the end of the year. The central focus of the display is ceramic art, with works including one-of-a-kind mugs, vases, serving dishes, wall sculptures, and plenty more on show for visitors to peruse at their leisure. Notable artists represented at the event include Nick DeVries, Delores Fortuna, Stuart Gair, Nancy Gardner, Glynnis Lessing, and Laura Marmas. After the Holiday Show exhibition comes to a close, a number of the exhibits will remain on display as part of the gallery’s regular collection.

LOCATION Lillstreet Art Center, 4401 North Ravenswood Avenue DATES Through 31 December 2019

Julia Fish: bound by spectrum

(Photo: DePaul Art Museum)

For three decades, Julia Fish has used her house and its vernacular architecture – a 1922 Chicago storefront – as the basis for a system of mapping colour, form and light in paintings and works on paper. This exhibition presents a survey of the last decade of the artist’s work, while providing new scholarship around her ongoing project that brings together the disciplines of painting, drawing, and architecture. Rendering architectural details, specifically thresholds, at actual size and from observation, Fish creates a subjective response to objective information, informed by effects of light in space, time of day, the seasons, cardinal direction, and her own physical vantage point.

LOCATION DePaul Art Museum, 935 West Fullerton Avenue DATES Through 23 February 2020 

Maurice Costello: Back to “the Nam”

(Photo: National Veterans Art Museum)

Featuring artwork by Vietnam veteran and artist Maurice Costello, this visual retrospective recounts memories, recollections and reflections on that terrible conflict that left emotional scars still enduring today. The exhibition includes 21 works set in chronological order — starting with 1967 when Costello was drafted into the army until the present time – with Costello making use of a spectrum of vibrant and muted colours to emphasise various emotions. This assortment of haunting paintings and photographic images recall the horrors of war, as well as providing a vivid representation of the evolution and breadth of Costello’s approach to art and life.

LOCATION National Veterans Art Museum, 4041 North Milwaukee Avenue DATES Through July 2020